Monthly Archives: October 2014

Sky Hunter: A Ghost Story

Here is the song to play with the story, which will make it even spookier.
Samhain Eve by Damh the Bard

Outside, the wind rustled the many colored fallen leaves, golds and browns, fraying at the edges, as if even after death and drying, disintegration could continue with its own haunting sentience. Outside, the large maple tree scraped its branches together slowly, ominously, while the clouds that had begun their traversing across the sky after several hours of clear and quiet blue, moved like migrating birds in strange pattern formations, onward, away. Outside, the world breathed, silently, expectantly, hushed.

Inside, the girl’s room felt safe and familiar. She was twelve years old, in that strange liminal place her parents called the ‘tweens, the age of not believing. The girl’s window was shut against the October cold, as well as the piles of snow that came in early the night before. The desk did not face the window. Instead, the window opened out along the wall to the girl’s left as she sat at her laptop checking email. The door to the girl’s room stood slightly open behind her, and she could hear her parents’ murmurs, the low somber tones of their voices that characterized their talk during this season, in contrast to their more buoyant, joyful and louder registers which lasted from Winter Solstice through Fall Equinox. “This is not a time to draw attention to ourselves,” her mother would often tell the girl, along with the girl’s younger brother, in years past when ghosts and goblins and witches with pointy hats and long root like fingers, boney and gnarled as if pulled ruthlessly from the earth, had seemed imminent and real. But her mother never told her why. Now, the girl thought adamantly, she was too old for such foolish things. At least this is what she told herself, safe and sheltered in her room, the light casting a 4 o-clock shadow across her carpeted floor, and the comforting noises of her parents’ conversation and the ding, ding of her brother’s video game floating in to her from down the hall. But blood runs cold, even for such a girl, now presumably freed from the night terrors of a child.

“Hello, little girl,” read the subject line of the newest email she was looking at, from an unknown address. How odd, the girl thought, for an email from an unknown person to have come in just now, with a subject that sounded like a greeting specifically for her. Was it spam, she wondered. The subject made no claims of false dire needs for help or an advertising scam. She opened the email. “You have caught my attention,” it said. That was all. The girl blinked uneasily. She looked again at the “from” line. From: 4231I936. No name. Was it her imagination, or had this email come in exactly when she had been thinking about her mother’s warnings about drawing attention to yourself? The coincidence did not go unnoticed. She glanced quickly out the window. Nothing strange could be seen, only the clouds had moved closer, darting across the roof of the house as if chased by the wind.

October 31st dawned with a sky that for several minutes appeared blood red. More clouds came to cover the girl’s view, clear to the horizon, and around noon it began to rain. The girl had been wary about turning on her computer and looking through her email, but it was Saturday, and she wanted to talk to her friends. There were very few emails from friends, and too many from 4231I936. With increasing fear and trepidation she read the messages. “I have sent the wind to find you.” “You don’t know who I am, but I know who you are. I know you. I will be waiting for you.” “I am not as far from you now as you might think. I wish for company… I will come for you.”

The girl’s blue eyes paled. Someone was stalking her. A secret admirer? A man? Could he see her from the window? She closed the blinds tight. Was he that close? How did he know her? Feeling slightly sweaty with fear, the girl ran to join her parents. They were in the kitchen, chopping vegetables and marinating meat for the feast of Samhain come evening.

Samhain for the girl had always been a mysterious, slightly terrifying holiday. It marked their family’s observance of the New Year, but that would be officially celebrated tomorrow, after it was clear that the pursuers in the wild hunt had passed by the family household without snatching a hapless soul. Tonight the vale between the worlds grew ever thinner, so that the chill of the storm felt like it must have originated straight out of the otherworld, the land of the ancestors and the sidhe.

The girl shivered despite the warm coziness of central heating and the security of home. They would set a plate of the feast her parents were preparing out on the lawn for their ancestors, light several candles and wish well the departed whom they could name, and then go trick-or-treating with their friends. The girl wondered whether she was getting too old for trick-or-treating, but was glad that the nebulous status of her age made it still possible for her to bravely step into the night, safely flirting with the possibilities of begrudging fairy folk and vengeful hags without ridicule.

As she approached the kitchen, the girl overheard her parents talking about the status of the sky. “A fierce storm is brewing for tonight,” her father was saying, “Dy you think we’ll see more than we bargained for this year?”

“Hush,” her mother shushed him, spying their agitated daughter standing in the doorway. Turning to her she said, “What’s wrong?”

Alarm danced along the girl’s down-turned mouth, and in her narrowed eyes. She sat heavily on a stool near the gas stove. She didn’t know how to explain the stalker, the emails, or the dread threatening to explode from inside her. “Has anyone ever been caught by the hunt across the sky?” was all she could ask. If she said more, she thought, she might upset her parents too much.

Her mother smiled. “Oh no, darling, it’s just a metaphor for the seasons, the death of summer.” Children have such endearing fears she thought, wistfully.

It was just after eleven when the girl slogged through the front door, done with her breathless night of trick-or-treating. She had left with a cloth sack to keep her candy dry: the rain came down fiercely, and now it was beginning to snow. Without knowing why, once the girl had gone into her room to change out of her wet clothes she had an irresistible urge to check her email to see whether another message was waiting for her. At the sound of the tone indicating new messages, a large clump of snow fell heavily off the maple tree, smacking the window with a loud thump. The girl jumped, and almost screamed. She could have sworn it sounded like a knock at the window.

“”We’re going out to watch for the sky riders!” her brother hollered down the hall at her. This was another of their Samhain traditions. She remembered Samhains past when she was small enough to be carried in her father’s arms, and how she had squinted up at the sky secure in his sturdy embrace, hoping, and yet not hoping, that the hunter and his hounds would appear. It was fifteen minutes to midnight. She glanced at the email from the strange address that was sitting in her inbox, as if drawn to reading it through some magnetic pull. There was now a picture attached to the email of a cloaked figure wearing a set of antlers, carrying a club and a spear, and under that, the words, “Don’t you want to live an extraordinary life, little girl?”

“No!” and, “not anymore,” thought the girl, startled. A moment later, terror tore through her. What if this being, whoever he was, could read her mind, had read her mind? She shut her eyes. Extraordinary was definitely over rated. The girl wanted from now on to spend every day eating cereal for breakfast, hugging her parents good-bye as she left for school, doing her homework, and promptly going to sleep afterward. No more day dreaming about the world out there, running through fields, making a huge difference, and whatever else might draw any attention to her inadvertently. She wanted to be left alone, forgotten.

The girl ran out of her room without looking back. Joining her brother and parents on the back porch out of reach of the snow drifts and the howling wind, she proceeded to cram herself between her mother and father who had been standing with their arms around each other. They were startled by her sudden need for affection, but held her close anyway.

“Look!” her brother shouted excitedly., “The sky hunter! I see him, I see him!”

“What’s that…” the children’s mother began, but trailed off into stunned silence.

And then, unbelieving, the girl raised her eyes, too, from where they had been squarely fixed on the various types of rock in the pavement. Far off, perhaps a mile off, a dark shadow loomed on the horizon. Slowly, deliberately, it came striding over the sky, through the clouds, as if for this strange being air had a solidity it would not lend any other. From the direction of the dark figure came a mournful, eerie howl, only partly masked by the gale of the storm picking up around them. The far off sound seemed to originate from everywhere and nowhere, ebbing and flowing, a tide of baleful voices that were decidedly not human. It seemed to the girl that the wind suddenly found an awareness of its own breathing, wailing it’s sorrow through the frenzied clouds for the first time.

The humans on the ground stood motionless, too shocked to move. As the figure approached, it grew larger, but still just as darkly undifferentiated. It appeared to be clothed by shadow, wrapped in it, like a great umbral shawl. The howling grew in intensity, now made out in individual voices, snarling and baying, hungry for the living. The girl shivered and tried hiding in her mother’s down jacket, but she was not quite small enough for that.

“Run inside!” the father shouted above the unearthly calamity over their heads. But at that moment the clouds dispersed, and the moon, still almost full, shown bright and piercing through the sky, its light like arrows, sharp and defining. The girl turned, dazzled by the sudden appearance of the light, that aberrant brightness incongruously illuminating the darkness beyond her, and saw the great hunter in the sky, poised in mid air. The fact that he hunted without companions and had no horse with him, made his image more eerie, his pursuit more ominous. He carried a spear on his back and a club in hand, his long, unruly black hair streaming out from under a full set of antlers, his ancient face grave and mocking. The long beard gave him the look of one with wild authority, as he hovered gracefully around fifty feet away and twice as high above besides. Three hounds stood on either side of him, and though they were temporarily stayed, they continually pawed the clouds with impatience.

For a second, action failed the girl, and she simply trembled violently. Then the family vanished indoors. The clouds returned with a vengeance. The door slammed. No words were exchanged. All entrances and windows locked. Candles and lights turned off. The parents and the children huddled deep under their covers and fell asleep. The girl slept next to the window, the blinds drawn against the moon, and the images of that haunted scene, now seeped into her dreams.

Outside, the ground lay heavy with mist and a deafening silence. Outside the maple tree shuddered and shook in the frenzied encroaching dark. Outside, he was waiting… waiting… until the third hour, he waited. Inside, the family began slowly to stir, and then to wake. Inside the girl’s room, nothing stirred, not even the air, and only emptiness remained to greet the day. She was gone.

***

This story is almost entirely based on a dream I had many years ago, long before I ever heard Damh the Bard’s song on the same subject. In that dream, I became the little girl, even though my waking age was around twenty-four. I awoke before she disappeared. For those who dare curiosity, go and ask the hunter of the sky what fate has befallen her, for there is always more than one version of a story to be told. However, I advise that if you do get his attention, you should probably not even bother with the locks on your windows on Samhain Eve. He’ll be waiting for you …

***

Click here to read about the wild hunt as told in different ways around the world:

Ancestor Invocation _ The One-Many OM Project

Ancestors Invocation
by Jennifer Ellison
(Originally published in Druid’s Progress 11)

We hear your whispered voices speaking words of wisdom into our unconscious minds. Your whispers awaken our dreams, our hearts, our desires. You who are our ancestors who once walked upon the earth and were part of our shared life eternal, we praise you with all that is sacred in our lives.

You who planted the seed of knowledge, you who sought inner peace, you who claimed your love for the Gods and Goddesses of old, we give you honor and praise your name.

Grandmother, without you I would not be here. Grandfather, without you I would not be here. People that have come before and gone ahead, without you I would not be here.

I give you honor and praise your name. We ask you for guidance, for you have the power of knowledge. You have been born in us, part of our being. We draw upon your strength so that we may move ever forward. Your footsteps, we follow as all children will. You are our family and with all the love in my being, I give you honor and call your names.

Ancestors, I praise you with the earth in my palm. I praise you with the fire in my heart. I praise you with my breath as I give offerings to your greatness. I praise you with the blood and water of life within my body. I call forth for you with honor for all eternity.

***

Happy samhain to all!

The Haunted House: Some Haloween Fun

Bats are rustling in the eves
Spiders a crawling out from places unseen
Tattered old webs hang from windows and doors
Slugs and newts ooze along the floors
No one has lived here since… we can’t be sure
Why don’t you come in, see if there’s anything more?
Why don’t you come in, see if there’s anything more?

The upstairs mirror shatters each night before dawn,
A faucet starts dripping, one light keeps turning on
The floor’s been a creaking and the pipes, they moan,
Why don’t you go knock, see if there’s anyone home?
Why don’t you go knock, see if there’s anyone home?

A window starts to shudder, or is it you just being scared?
I watch as you climb those rotten rickety stairs,
As you stand breathing hard, another breath starts to rasp
Just a few more feet, and you’ll be in my grasp.
Just a few more feet, and you’ll be in my grasp.

A single eye glued to the peep hole in the door
Eying every move, until I sense you are sure,
I heard your scream as you turned and ran:
The knocker you gripped, a clammy ice cold hand.
The knocker you gripped, my clammy ice cold hand.

I stare you down as you make your descent,
Your foot falls through a crack and you sprawl on the cement,
Surely you’d die from my stairs’ decay?
You could have died like me if I had had my way.
You could have died like me, oh if you hadn’t got away, …

You’d be a bat a rustling in the eves,
A spider crawling out from places unseen
A slug or newt oozing ’round the floor…
They were people like you, ’till they were people no more.
They were people like you, before they knocked on my door.

I’ve put up a recording of the song on my soundtrack page. It’s about 3/4 of the way down the page, go have a listen… if you dare!

Senseless

I think most violence is a senseless act driven by the false belief that people can have power over other people. Achieving such power is a life mission befitting a badly done Greek tragedy. People go ahead anyway, deluding themselves that death is a form of control. They only betray their egregious ignorance, the desperation of their ill-conceived despair over their helplessness, the rejection of their own fragility. No one is so powerful as to alter the principle of the world, and the principle of the world is life.

If each could experience
The truth, who we are,
How then could we senselessly
Destroy each other?

Shards of light,
Each fragment shines,
No telling now
What’s yours, or mine.

Life breaks open
Comes undone,
Scatters all
We’ve ever known.

Wandering through darkness
I hope one day we find
Undying love:
For we’ll leave all else behind.

First World Living

I am giving up, I say
Crawling into bed
Closing my eyes
Many relationships, my dissertation

Are simply not working
I am tired of fighting, I say
Nothing happens
Events feel senseless to me

In high school once a year
We drew tiles
White blue red
First, second, third world

Meals were dealt out accordingly
Everything from banquets to hardly anything
More went home empty and hungry
Some went home full wanting more

Later I walk across the street
To the restaurant
There I am hungry
Potatoes and vegetables, soup and turkey

carry it home
I sit down with my thanks
Giving proportions
Fill a glass

With water
Prepare to eat and realize
This is first world living

Not just the food but
Having more than enough and still
Feeling like
Life is a waste

All day emptiness but outside
The world spills up and over itself everywhere
Full of itself with
More than enough

Caught In the Tides of Samhain

Every once and a while,
a longing …

An aching
in bone,

A sighing
Disturbing disquiet,

A howling low
Like wind,

Blowing through
Catches me sharply.

Displaced, disoriented,
The known feels so unfamiliar.

Silent emptiness, tightly contained,
Sifts through,

The outer shell,
too small.

Every once in a while,
reaching out
for you,

Isn’t enough,
Not face to face,
Speaking, no voices.

Passing by, passing through,
Each other

I am the other
Where space is crowded with your absence.

Every once and a while,
home beckons
a shining light,

And I long,
I ache for home,
For the solidness of knowing you.

For that time when we’ll be
Reunited, together,

Even though, around me
The great world unfolds, dazzling wonder,
And I love all of it.

Even though in the stillness you are
Here, I am not alone,
On this journey, still not the same.

Even though…
I long, something is missing,

Laughter and music,
Drying tears, simple gestures.

When you run to catch me flying,
I might never let you go.

The Salmon of Knowledge _ When Two Worlds Meet: Part 12

December 22, 2013

It is now Tuesday, and I have yet to hear from Caoilte or Oisín about the letter I sent them. I wonder whether this has been the best way to communicate. I do remember thinking, however, that if anyone from the otherworld would read a letter on a computer screen, Caoilte would.

Now however, my anxiety over whether or not anyone will understand is growing rapidly. Are they angry? Have I failed my commitment to do my best in all things and follow through on what I say? This last thought threatens to send me into despair. After all, I said that my place was theirs also, and now I am taking it back. I remind myself that I am changing my mind for good, perhaps even legitimate reasons, but I cannot convince myself that those in the otherworld will find such reasons sufficient. I am hoping I have not inadvertently created a conflict. More than that, however, I take the vow I have made to live by the fianna’s values extremely seriously and would rather not break it in only four weeks’ time because I hadn’t the foresight to realize just what I could and could not commit to.

I get to my routine Tuesday appointment, conveniently within walking distance from home, a good fifteen minutes early. Happy with myself on this count, I sit down on the plush couch in the waiting room and close my eyes. I’m going to use this time to think.

Thinking yields a plan of action that, I admit, feels outlandish to me. Where did this idea come from? It is this: go talk to the salmon of knowledge and ask after how Oisín and Caoilte and the rest of the fianna feel about my decision.

In my mind, I recall the story in which Fionn, comes by the wisdom of the salmon. The salmon, Finton, acquires the wisdom of the ages from eating the nuts of the nine hazel trees which I have only learned very recently are said to have stood around Nechtan’s Well at the mouth of the river Boyne. The druid Finegas gives young Fionn the task of cooking up the salmon as well as warns him not to eat any of it in the process. However, while cooking it, Fionn attempts to squelch a blister on the salmon’s skin. In doing so, he burns his thumb, which he instinctively places in his mouth. Upon hearing this, Finegas instructs Fionn to eat the salmon, as its knowledge is obviously meant for him to have.

Closing my eyes, I am surprised at how easy it is to come by a place I should know little about. The grove of the hazel trees is so vivid to me, that I can’t imagine I’ve never been here before. But I can’t fathom how or when this could have happened. It is located near a very steep hill, which by my rough estimation is 20-30 degrees in slope. I must walk up the hill and down the other side to get there properly, avoiding lots of loose rocks and tree roots along the way. The pool is surrounded by many slopes leading down to it, in fact, and lies slightly below the grove which lines the slow stream running straight through the middle of the trees.

As I walk into the grove, I suddenly remember things that seem rather silly to find important at the moment. Facts such as that there are better places to wash, it isn’t safe to navigate the stream or even some of the river it turns into further on with a boat or coracle, and that the willow trees nearby can’t properly burn in a fire. Since I am not interested in making a fire, washing in the stream, or boating, I wonder briefly where these seemingly random thoughts have come from, and why. I decide I definitely have to have come here before even if I find it baffling.

It’s super cold and windy here today. Due to the time zone difference, my venture at 11:15 A.M. pacific standard time puts me in the grove at about 7:15 in the evening. The water feels like it is under sixty degrees when I test it, and after leaving my hands in it for over a minute, they turn numb. Around me the leaves rustle in the wind, while the stream gurgles around small boulders and dances over pebbles. I sit on an ancient flat rock with my hands in the water, hoping the salmon of knowledge will appear sooner than later.

After five or so minutes, a relatively short time, I note to myself, I see the salmon in the water and catch it immediately. To be fair, I think it is easy for me to get hold of the salmon only because, a few months before hand, I have a dream in which I catch the salmon of knowledge in my hands. Since allowed this in the dream, it seems that the salmon is quite happy to hang out again with me now. Holding the salmon gently under the water, I realize with relief that I don’t actually have to enact cooking it or sucking my thumb. This is quite fortunate for the both of us, I have to say, the exemption from thumb-sucking particularly appreciated on my end of things. Just touching it is sufficient. Unsure of whether or not sending pictures to the salmon in my head is an effective way to communicate, I give it a try anyway and ask my question.

Next, I let the salmon go, after thanking it for its help in the matter. Then, I wait. Not for long, it turns out. But I have to say, the next few minutes pass with interminable slowness. I have finally come home. The last thing I would ever want to do is find myself rejected after such a long time yearning after and searching for those in the otherworld with whom I truly belong. I am sincerely worried, convinced that I can’t trust myself to ever do the right thing, and it is a bit existentially terrifying to not know where I stand. These are the feelings I have in any similar situation in this world, but somehow multiplied exponentially in this situation where I tell myself that I might lose everything– an everything the likes of which in this world I have never known. Yet, as these things so often go, I am soon to have a lesson in just what real belonging looks like, and it is, for the most part and with some crucial exceptions, the truth against anything my past experience urges me to believe.

Presently, the salmon returns, with an answer in the form of a picture. of course everyone understands why I’ve had to close the portals to the otherworld, and have not been upset with me in the slightest. I can let go of my concerns. Real belonging is unconditional. It is my own sense of separateness and fear that has prevented me from knowing this before. Succumbing to the fear of rejection, I have inadvertently spun an illusion of the very isolation I dread around me, until I have convinced myself that “real” belonging is conditional and capricious, any actual evidence otherwise notwithstanding.

Secondly, they have been waiting for me to recognize the value of my own needs and commitment to myself, and change my mind. They’ve known for a while it hasn’t been working out for me, but I needed to come to this realization on my own, and they are surprised by how long it has taken me to concede. I, however, am not surprised. Conceding, it seems, is only something I do once it becomes absolutely necessary. It has now become necessary. However, at any moment beforehand, I was determined to stand my ground indefinitely. Oh well: I know myself well enough to recognize I can be recalcitrant, even to my own detriment. “Perhaps such a steadfast commitment to self-defeating stubbornness is no longer needed?” is the suggestion offered kindly in the picture. I find the idea a bit strange, against my instincts really, but because it is part of the picture, I start to take it seriously, a little at a time.

Later that day I get a very vivid vision. I am told that if I go to the Aquatic Park, to a particular tree near a picnic table I’ve found last week, I will find a gift from Oisín to thank me for the hospitality I’ve shown the fianna. I have hosted so many of his family and friends that he wishes to give me a tangible token of their gratitude. It is clear from the picture he sends me that he doubts I’ll consistently remember the bit about just how understanding everyone has been and still is, unless there is something in this world to remind me. I have to admit he is probably right about that. Moved by such unexpected reciprocated generosity and full of curiosity at what Oisín has in mind, I decide that tomorrow, as soon as I can get out, I’m going to head off and investigate. I’ve now forgotten all about doubt and worry which have been replaced by the sheer excitement of participating in this unfolding mystery that spans two worlds. So, in my return picture I say, “Wow, that’s incredibly thoughtful of you. Oh, and if there are more adventures to go send me on, I’m up for it.”

Threading Over And Through: The Endless Journey

Far beyond that one, ephemeral day,
Vitality ever flies, clear and shimmering.

Within the lone wolf’s mournful howl
They heard their own cries, calling out, calling in return.

These are ones who lived beyond their sorrow,
For all in their sunrise to see.

the sunset Of their one flutter of light
Has scattered their existence.

Perhaps we will glimpse an old reflection of ourselves,
In the still and silent water,

Or perhaps, when the lightning strikes,
We will once again raise leafy hands to the sky,

Aware of the intertwining roots,
Anchoring us firmly to the heart of earth,

And the way we take light into ourselves,
A feast of the many colors.

The great charged arcs from the dark clouds above,
Illuminate the core of us from inside out.

I am here, now,
In this starlit night,

And I become the lonesome wolf cry,
You, the moon I call to.

You, shining through the mist beyond the horizon,
I find we have once again traded places.

I will shelter you from the storm,
Though its anger strikes out, I stay your tears.

The map is lost,
Though that’s not stopped any of us from making the journey,

And always I will hold you safe,
Far from bitter winds, even when it seems no one understands.

Dream-Bitten 1998

Shallow the water from which I came,
Still earth, waits, to receive my trial-errored body

Dropped like a star falling
I concentrate dizzily on balance.

Like mistletoe around the oak,
You leave me dream-bitten.

I belong to time’s entropy,
And to spirit-kin, wild, wild, wild.

You say to wait… passion pooling within the hopeful ones, …
Plunged back into black holes. I wait to be whole.

Into infinitudes of time,
Cornered by curiosity,

I discover, I almost remember,
The deer run, bear skin, wolf-wild world rewandered.

Happiness halts along a dilapidated road,
And a lighthouse lurks,

Star-crimson among
Fog’s shining shadows.

Silence pierces perfectly cold loss,
Dare I soar to drift through evanescent light,

Scampering effortlessly,
A lonely light beam traveling.

So much left behind among the waves,
To a desolate world, vailed in endless tears,

Wrapped within the spiraled coils,
You fix me with beady eyes,

And with the dawn, unknown longing,
You leave me dream-bitten.

Phoenix Returning

I woke up with a sunrise
Echoing in my eyes,

The colors all collide,
And all that I can find

Is being alive
Engrained in every surface where it shines.

What else could I do but trade
The limits of the world for a song,

The song in whose melody
I’ve always belonged?

Believing the words held in silence so long,
I am, I am, so grateful to be.

The categories stripped away,
The day made out in perfect contour

Against the breathing sky,
And I, The crying light beaming,

Each a color that streams,
And the words form wings.

They dance each ray of light leaping,
Expanding from every point, changing never leaving.

Like a young universe, carving its own horizon,
I reach out, there Is no point

From which I begin or then return,
I am, I am, so grateful to be.

And so I rise,
With the sun rising in my eyes,

Surrendering the need to try,
I know I can’t fall, only fly.

What else could I do but trade
The fears of this world for a song,

The song in whose melody
I’ve always belonged?

There is more to our lives
Than the world will let on,

Night has it’s stars, from the ashes I’ve gone,
I rise, I rise, and always I’ll be.